Salem Health will scale down mass vaccination sites, distribute Covid vaccine to clinics and smaller events

People wait in line under a tent for the COVID-19 vaccine clinic during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Oregon State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Jan. 28. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem Health will shrink the size of its mass vaccination clinic at the Oregon State Fairgrounds starting May 25 and expects to stop offering first doses of Covid vaccine there in early June.

Covid vaccines are available at Salem Health’s medical clinics, and the health care provider is adding additional mobile vaccine clinic events open to the public in the coming weeks, hoping to reach people who might find traveling to get a shot difficult. Receiving a Covid vaccine is free and does not require health insurance.

A list of clinic locations and vaccination events open to the public is on the Salem Health website. They include an event Friday, May 21 at Four Corners Elementary School in southeast Salem, 500 Elma Ave. S.E., from 2-6 p.m.

The hospital announced its plans in a statement Thursday, saying demand for vaccinations has been falling at both the Salem site and a Polk County vaccination site on the Western Oregon University campus. Since the fairgrounds site opened in early January, it has administered more than 200,000 vaccines.

At its peak, the vaccine clinic at the fairgrounds averaged 4,000 doses per day. Last week, the average was 2,150 doses per day and this week, an average of about 1,400 doses per day. For this week and last week, 76% of volume is second doses. Salem Health continues to see a strong return rate for second doses with 97 percent returning within one week of their second dose due date,” Salem Health spokeswoman Lisa Wood said in an email.

The announcement comes as state and local health officials have said Covid vaccine efforts will shift more toward doctor’s offices, clinics and targeted events, rather than mass vaccination sites.

At the state fairgrounds, vaccines will remain available by appointment or walk-in Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the day’s last walk-in appointments at 4 p.m. The clinic entrance and exit will shift to Sunnyview Road Northeast, the announcement said.

Starting June 2, the vaccination site at Western Oregon University will scale down to two days per week, Wednesday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Marion County still needs more than 32,000 adults to get their first dose of Covid vaccine to hit a target set by Gov. Kate Brown for loosening most Covid restrictions. Brown said counties could move to “low risk” Covid restrictions, allowing increased capacity in restaurants, theaters and other venues, once 65% of adults had received their first dose of vaccine. Polk County needs about 3,900 more residents to get their first shot to meet that goal.

Once 70% of eligible Oregonians have received their first Covid shot, Brown said she would lift nearly all Covid restrictions statewide. The state is currently at 62.7%, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Correction: This article incorrectly listed the street for the new entrance for the vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds. It is Sunnyview Road Northeast, not Sunnyside Road Northeast. Salem Reporter regrets the error.

-Rachel Alexander